“He reads the game like Claude Makelele, has the presence of Patrick Vieira and can pass the ball like Yaya Toure.” (Le Parisien)
If the effusive praise of Stade Rennais manager Frederic Antonetti carries any merit, Yann M’Vila is destined to enjoy a career at the very pinnacle of the beautiful game. Less than a year ago, the 22-year-old was the standout figure in the latest batch of exciting French talent, before a string of controversies provoked a partial fall from grace.
As the transfer window swings open once more, M’Vila is perhaps looking to resurrect his career rather than build upon it and has fuelled speculation by admitting, “If the club receive a good offer and I like the destination then I will go”. Arsene Wenger has long thought to be leading the chase for his signature, but would the highly-rated midfielder provide a solution or merely add to the growing list of problems at Arsenal?
The rumour mill has not been kind to M’Vila in recent months, with sensationalised reporting of road rage, altercations with supporters and even an alleged assault serving to tarnish his reputation. However, his current suspension from all formats of the national team until June 2014 – after an unauthorised night out while on under-21 duty – is unlikely to deter his suitors, who may even utilise such negative exposure as a method of driving down the asking price.
In fact, Wenger reportedly cooled his interest after an incident during the defeat to Spain at the European Championships, where M’Vila ignored oncoming substitute Olivier Giroud and refused to shake the hand of former head coach Laurent Blanc. M’Vila protested that he didn’t want to waste any time with unnecessary formalities, but unless he planned to plant a kiss on the cheeks of both men, his antics portray the actions of an immature and temperamental young man.
The last thing Arsenal need is another defensive midfielder cursed with the personality and egotistical nature of Denilson or Mathieu Flamini. In the case of troubled souls Adel Taarabt and Mario Balotelli, we are already beginning to understand that a rebellious and undignified attitude will always prevent you from reaping the rewards of exceptional individuals.
Yet, there is something ultimately alluring about the wealth of potential bubbling under the surface. M’Vila boasts the fierce physical presence currently devoid on the pitch at the Emirates and his tireless work ethic would see him blend seamlessly into the rigours of the Premier League. At his best, he resembles a one-man wrecking ball for Stade Rennais, adored by supporters having graduated from the famed academy that once nurtured former Arsenal favourite Sylvain Wiltord.
Marcel Desailly has frequently voiced his public support for M’Vila, even claiming he could one day surpass the achievements of Patrick Vieira. However, the former Chelsea defender is convinced he needs to adapt his role in order to continue his development:
“He is doing too much… He is defending and trying also to create and make the difference up the field. He has to reduce his commitment up the field.” (Daily Mail)
With this in mind Arsenal seems like the perfect destination, as the club already harbour an array of effective stars in the final third. Wenger carries both the respect and the knowledge to carefully craft a new anchorman for his side, which has drifted somewhat aimlessly since the departure of Alex Song and the absence of Abou Diaby.
The Gunners may have to act swiftly if they are to secure another high-profile signing in January. Harry Redknapp’s quest for more ‘warriors’ will apparently see him table a bid in the next few days while Tottenham Hotspur are renowned bargain hunters, who would jump at the chance to trump their North London neighbours.
Perhaps though, the biggest contenders are struggling Newcastle, a team that already possesses several prominent French internationals in their ranks. Alan Pardew may see M’Vila as the perfect partner for talisman Yohan Cabaye, just as Didier Deschamps once did.